1. This writ petition preferred by three land-holders is directed against the order of the Land Tribunal, Kadur, dated 24-7-1975 conferring occupancy right in respect of four lands on respondent No. 3 under S. 48-A of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.
2. Two main grounds urged in support of the writ petition are: First, the decision of the Tribunal is vitiated because the Tribunal relied on its own spot inspection and enquiries of the adjacent land-owners on 24-7-1975 at 2 P. M. which were made behind the back of the petitioners. Secondly, one of the Members of the Tribunal, Shri K. R. Honnappa is a cousin of the third respondent and that the participation of the said Honnappa, who is biassed in favour of the third respondent, has vitiated the proceedings.
3. No counter-affidavit has been filed either by the Tribunal or by the third respondent, denying the relationship between Sri K. R. Honnappa, Member of the Tribunal, and the third respondent. There is also no denial of the allegation that the spot inspection referred to in the order of the Tribunal was held behind the back of the petitioners and without notice to them. Before the Land Tribunal, an objection was raised by the third petitioner Seethamma on the ground that Sri K. R Honnappa is a close relation of the applicant (third respondent). The exact relationship is also stated in the statement of objections. It is stated that Honnappa's father and the father of the third respondent are brothers and that the said Honnappa and the third respondent are on good terms.
The allegation made in this writ petition that the said Honnappa had throughout participated in the proceedings has not been disputed. The order passed by the Tribunal and produced in this case does not bear the signature of the said Honnappa. If, in fact, the Said Honnappa had not participated and kept himself out from the very commencement of the proceedings, it should have been so stated in the order. A counter-affidavit should have been filed supporting such a stand. When one of the parties is closely related to a Member of the Tribunal, it is clear case of bias. The observance of the rules of natural justice requires that there should be fair hearing and fair hearing means that a person who is closely related to a party ought not to preside over a Tribunal. If such a person participated in the proceedings of the Tribunal and does not keep himself out from the commencement, the proceedings are clearly vitiated.
4. The Tribunal has stated in its order that it held spot inspection and enquired of all the adjacent owners of land regarding cultivation of the lands in question. It relied on the statements of the adjacent owners made at the time of the spot inspection. The procedure required to be followed by the Land Tribunal has been prescribed by R. 17 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Rules and according to the said Rule the Tribunal has to follow the procedure provided under S. 34 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act. Section 34 requires that the officer conducting an enquiry shall himself record in his own hand in Kannada or in English the summary of the evidence in the proceedings containing the material averments made by the parties interested, the decision and the reasons for the same.
Section 36 provides that every hearing, whether in a formal or summary enquiry, shall be in public and the parties or their recognised agents shall have due notice to attend. Holding inspection and making local enquiries without due notice to the parties interested to attend and listening to the statements of adjacent owners of land without examining them as witnesses and without affording the interested parties an opportunity to cross-examine, is a clear violation of the express provisions of Ss. 34 and 36 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act. The procedure followed by the Tribunal is clearly illegal and that illegality has vitiated the entire proceedings resulting in substantial injustice to the petitioners whose property rights have been adversely affected by the decision of the Tribunal.
5. Therefore, I allow this writ petition and quash the impugned order dated 24-7-1975. I also quash the entire proceedings including the enquiries made at the inspection held on 24-7-1975. Proceedings shall be commenced afresh by the Tribunal. Shri K. R. Honnappa, who is closely related to the applicant before the Tribunal, shall not participate from the commencement of the proceedings before the Tribunal. The Members of the Tribunal, excluding Shri K. R. Honnappa, are directed to make a fresh adjudication in accordance with law after affording all parties a reasonable opportunity of leading fresh evidence and of being heard. Ordered accordingly. No costs.
6. Petition allowed.